|Monsanto's toxic sites could cost a bomb (8/3/2007)|
1.Toxic sites could cost a bomb
EXTRACTS: "The discharges sampled contained highly toxic pollutants and factual evidence suggests that the cattle deaths, reproductive problems and abortions, were a direct consequence of that pollution, and of the ingestion of PCB, which were found in the stream and well water." (item 1)
...it seems clear that Monsanto well knew of the dangers of PCB, and the related contaminants by 1965, and had substantial and specific knowledge of the risks to the environment by 1969. (item 2)
1.Toxic sites could cost a bomb
TAXPAYERS may have to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to clean up toxic sites in Wales unless a claim is made on the assets of a bankrupt American company by the end of the month.
An expert who began monitoring two of the sites 40 years ago says it is vital that British authorities take action to hold the Monsanto group to account. The bankrupt company Solutia is part of the Monsanto group, which he accuses of being the major polluter.
The Environment Agency says Brofiscin quarry at Groesfaen, near Pontyclun, in Cardiff's commuter belt, contains up to 75 different toxic substances. They allegedly include Agent Orange derivatives and carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Now Douglas Gowan, a retired pollution consultant who monitored the quarry from 1967, warns it could take many of the contaminants up to 100 years to degrade. And he claims there are several other such contaminated sites in Wales such as those at Maendy, Penrhos, T-Llwyd, Pentyrch, Ruabon, Wrexham, and Newport.
In a hard-hitting statement filed with a Bankruptcy Court in New York, where one of the Monsanto companies is in reorganisation, Mr Gowan accuses the group of knowingly risking health and environment by dumping huge amounts of toxic chemicals.
Mr Gowan, 63, first became involved in the long-running Brofiscin saga working for the NFU in London. The NFU's Glamorgan branch asked him to investigate allegations of pollution, cattle and sheep deaths and unusual reproductive problems among livestock on farms in the Pontypridd area.
His statement, lodged with the court in New York, where all case documents are made publicly available, says, "The discharges sampled contained highly toxic pollutants and factual evidence suggests that the cattle deaths, reproductive problems and abortions, were a direct consequence of that pollution, and of the ingestion of PCB, which were found in the stream and well water."
He said subsequent tests at the Royal Veterinary College in London, using mice fed the Brofiscin stream and well water, caused flaccidity, tumours and death.
"The cattle that died or aborted at Brofiscin farm also exhibited similar symptoms of lethargy and flaccidity and loss of muscular control."
Mr Gowan estimates that in the seven years that Maendy and Brofiscin accepted these wastes, as much as 80,000 tons of contaminated waste were dumped.
In his statement, Mr Gowan asserts, "These sites were not authorised by their planning consents to accept hazardous, chemical wastes. What is not immediately clear is the sheer magnitude of the environmental problems now created."
Brofiscin alone may well cost up to GBP100m to clean up, claims Mr Gowan. He has provided detailed evidence to lawyers in the USA involved in the bankruptcy proceedings involving the Monsanto group, claiming that the group was responsible for the dumping. To have any chance of eventual success, claims on Solutia's assets "almost certainly" have to be submitted by the end of March. Up to now, the Environment Agency in Wales has declined to submit a claim to the court in America.
Monsanto, which was split into three corporate entities in 1997, said in a statement, "On behalf of Pharmacia Corp (a surviving part of Monsanto now owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer), Monsanto Company is handling issues related to the historical manufacture of PCBs in Wales.
"We continue to work with the Wales Department for Environment and other regulatory bodies to resolve these issues.
"While the people involved in the manufacture of PCBs at the time and quoted in various documents are no longer with the company and probably deceased, a thorough, non-selective review of all of the documents will show that Pharmacia did inform its contractors of the nature of wastes prior to disposal, and that Pharmacia did not dump wastes from its own vehicles."
Solutia, a spin-off firm from Monsanto, which now runs the Newport site, said it was giving Monsanto and regulatory agencies "information as requested".
A spokesman for Monsanto in the USA, responding to Mr Gowan's claims of cows dying from PCB poisoning, said, "The Ministry of Agriculture in Wales investigated at the time and concluded that PCBs were an unlikely cause. Derivatives of Agent Orange are mentioned. I am assuming it was something like dioxins but Agent Orange was never produced in the UK. I have no knowledge of the 80,000 tons of contamination referred to."
We sent the entire text of Mr Gowan's court statement to Monsanto, seeking a response. Last night, a company spokesman said, "We confirm all we have said previously, including that there is no connection with Agent Orange, which old Monsanto never manufactured in the UK.
"Everyone involved has been working with the Government for years to address whatever needs to be done.
"Indeed, the Government is in the best position to determine exactly how much waste may be present and what needs to be done about it, not others."
An Assembly Government spokesperson said, "Carwyn Jones, the Rural Affairs Minister, takes the issues raised in relation to Brofiscin extremely seriously and has asked the Environment Agency to carry out a thorough investigation into the situation.
"The agency is investigating liability of various parties for the clean-up of the site."
Mr Gowan points out that as long ago as 1988, a Welsh Office survey of contaminated land made findings about the PCBs in both Brofiscin and Maendy.
It said, "They are mobile, non-degradable and carcinogenic. They could present a hazard to users of local groundwaters."
2.Outrage as taxpayers face footing a huge bill to clean up toxic dumps in Wales
Pollution expert Douglas Gowan began monitoring two of the Welsh toxic sites 40 years ago. Here we publish compelling extracts from his statement for a court in New York investigating the bankruptcy of one of the companies allegedly responsible for the dumping
I FIRST saw the landfill sites at Brofiscin and Maendy in the late autumn of 1967, while the dumping by the Bridgend-based company, Industrial Waste Disposal (IWD) South Wales, was in progress. This company was then acquired by Purle Brothers Holdings (Purle) in early 1968. Purle were headquartered in Rayleigh, Essex.
The chairman and CEO of Purle was Tony Morgan, seemingly primarily assisted by a Mr Richard Hawkins, a Mr D Irlham and an industrial chemist named Henry Pullen. A "consultant" that Mr Morgan also had me contact after our first meeting in Rayleigh in mid-1968, was a Mr Hugh Berridge.
On information and belief, tipping and landfill activity had begun in late 1965 at Brofiscin, and in mid-1966 at Maendy. These sites were not subject to planning consents allowing for the dumping of chemical or hazardous wastes, and all discharges to watercourse or aquifer were expressly prohibited.
I was told by two landfill site operatives, one of whom I now know as a Mr Barton Williams; and another as a Mr S Bevan, who claimed to be the regional manager for Purle; that most of the chemical and hazardous wastes they handled were coming from Monsanto.
In early 1968 I instituted a sampling and monitoring programme at both quarry sites and I was assisted in this investigation by ICI at its Brixham laboratories, and a notable firm of civil engineers from Leicester, named Pick Everard Keay and Gimson. I had a greater emphasis placed on the investigations at Brofiscin, due to the regular cattle deaths, abortions, and reproductive problems that were being experienced at Brofiscin farm, which is sited below the landfill.
At this time Miss Evelyn Morgan owned the limestone quarry known as Brofiscin. I had met Miss Morgan through Mr William Miles and his son Mr Gwilym Miles. At the time it was evident that leachate and seepage from the quarry was running over and underground onto Mr Miles's land. Later, between 1968 and 1973, and following my investigations, it became clear that the pollution was also affecting the nearby wells, stream, springs and underground waters, and also the land on and adjacent to Mr Miles's farm.
The discharges sampled contained highly toxic pollutants, and factual evidence suggests that the cattle deaths, reproductive problems, and abortions, were a direct consequence of that pollution, and of the ingestion of PCB, which was found in the stream and well water, and then in the livestock.
In my opinion, and based on documented evidentiary proofs, some of which are now in the public domain, and various internal memos distributed in Monsanto in St Louis, it seems clear that Monsanto well knew of the dangers of PCB, and the related contaminants by 1965, and had substantial and specific knowledge of the risks to the environment by 1969.
As a result of tests on rats conducted for them in 1953 by a consulting laboratory called Scientific Associates in St Louis, they knew of the dangers to animals, wildlife, and livestock should there be any escape of contaminants from the Brofiscin quarry; which was an inevitability because of it being a porous limestone. On information and belief I believe that Monsanto expressly failed to inform IWD of the nature of the wastes that they were handling, and of the risks associated with the dumping of these wastes into landfill. Monsanto also knew that IWD were not sophisticated as to dealing with, let alone understanding, the nature of the very toxic wastes that they were hauling to landfill, and then dumping, and had no in-house technical capabilities.
Monsanto were also in public denial at this time (1965-1968) as to the toxicity of PCB, and the related contaminants. IWD was the very last entity that they were going to warn about environmental hazards that they were globally denying existed.
The Newport plant was also the last of the three global Monsanto PCB facilities to cease manufacture; in around late 1977 to early 1978. The aroclors (mixes of PCBs) produced were probably used in insulating fluids, carbonless carbon paper, and electrical equipment, and also in paints. In the seven years that Maendy and Brofiscin accepted these wastes I calculate, and I was also advised by Monsanto, that the landfill sites, mainly Brofiscin, received as much as 80,000 tonnes of contaminated PCB waste residues in one form or another. This figure refers to the total tonnage of the contaminated wastes and not to the amount of PCB manufactured, or in a raw form.
The nature of the wastes being tipped at the quarries greatly concerned me in 1968, as these sites were not authorised by their planning consents to accept hazardous, chemical wastes, liquid or semi liquid wastes, cyanide, mercury, toxic resins, arsenic, naphthalene, phosphorous, or explosives. This was because the Brofiscin quarry was a permeable limestone, and the Maendy quarry was sandstone. The planning consents issued required the wastes to be dry waste and for there to be no discharge overground or underground.
In my view it demonstrated then and now a blatant disregard for Miss Morgan, who was being exposed to liability; for the Miles family; the cows at Brofiscin; the cows and sheep at Maendy; and the environment itself; if only as exampled by the population of freshwater shrimps in the Brofiscin stream water, which all died. However, neither Purle nor Monsanto would do anything to mitigate or remediate the situation, despite promises made at various times.